UNIFIL 248 88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
A day after an explosion uncovered a hidden Hizbullah arms cache in southern Lebanon, the IDF's Northern Command estimated that the group had turned hundreds of homes in the area into warehouses to store short- and medium-range Katyusha rockets.
The IDF released video footage taken from an Israeli aircraft, showing a home that had exploded on Tuesday in the village of Hirbet Selm - located some 20 kilometers north of the Lebanese border. The roof is seen in the footage with dozens of holes, which IDF ballistic experts said were the size of 122-mm. Katyusha rockets.
UNIFIL said that storing the ammunition was a "serious violation" of the UN-brokered ceasefire that ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
The peace keeping force said that it considered the incident a "serious violation" of the UN resolution that ended the conflict, which specifies that there should be no presence of unauthorized assets or weapons in the area of operations.
Israeli defense officials had also accused Lebanon of violating United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701.
"This is a major violation of resolution 1701," one Israeli official said. "The weaponry was stored inside a village and is proof of our longstanding claim that Hizbullah uses civilian infrastructure to hide its weaponry."
Contrary to Lebanese media reports which claimed that the cache was hidden in the village before the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Israeli defense officials said that the weaponry was recently placed inside the storehouse.
According to the officials, the cache was hidden in a storehouse inside the village and contained dozens of 122mm Katyusha rockets as well as high-powered machine guns. Some of the rockets reportedly flew into the sky.
The blast took place at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, and for the first few hours, Hizbullah sealed off the area and refused to grant UNIFIL or the Lebanese army access. IDF sources said that the clearing of the home and the unexploded ordinance had taken over 24 hours.
The sources said the IDF had been aware prior to the explosion that the home was being used as a storehouse for weapons. Several months before the explosion, an IDF aircraft captured footage of several senior Hizbullah operatives entering an underground tunnel near the house and reappearing from an exit 700 m. away.
"This house was connected to an entire underground network that was built right under the noses of UNIFIL and the Lebanese army," one IDF officer said. "This is a major violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701."
The Katyusha rockets that went off in Hirbet Selm were being stored in a two-story home. It was unclear on which floor they were being stored, but the home was shown on Lebanese television in close proximity to other village buildings.
In addition to the 122-mm. rockets, IDF ballistic experts said it was likely that the home also contained mortar shells and additional types of ammunition.